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Amid reports from Baltimore of excessive use of detention for protesters held without charges and assigned exorbitant bond amounts, Pretrial Justice Institute released the following statement from Executive Director Cherise Fanno Burdeen:

“Arrests, arbitrary bond amounts and pretrial detention should never be used as weapon against communities, even in moments of tension.

“Jailing people pretrial because they cannot afford bond is not only inhumane, it is unconstitutional. The use of sky-high bail amounts in Baltimore this week amount to premature guilty sentences for citizens who have not been convicted of any crime.

“The damage cannot be overstated: even short stints in jail before trial can lead to job and housing loss, destabilize families, and dramatically increase the likelihood of a person committing a crime in the future.

“Pretrial release decisions only should be made in consideration of two factors--flight risk or danger to the community. Where these two factors are absent, detention without charges subjects residents to further injustice as they mourn the death of Freddie Gray and demand answers about the circumstances of his death.”

Key facts: (more…)



In response to Hillary Clinton’s announced commitment today to “end the era of mass incarceration,” Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, made the following statement:

“Hillary Clinton today captured the spirit of what all Americans want from their justice system: fairness, equal treatment, and respect. Her call for the universal use of police body cameras is an important step toward reestablishing trust and transparency between police and the communities they serve, but more can and should be done to provide deep and sustainable solutions to end the ‘era of mass incarceration.’

“To tackle mass incarceration, we need to reduce arrests, specifically the number of Americans—disproportionately people from the African American and Latino communities—who are arrested for minor and low-level offenses. We must reform the system’s front end by curbing the millions of people booked into our nation’s jails who are held without conviction before trial every year. These pretrial practices serve as one of the ‘pipelines’ to mass incarceration Clinton referred to in her address to Columbia University today. (more…)



Bias-driven police brutality was not the only part of the criminal justice system under fire in yesterday’s DOJ report findings in Ferguson; the detention of people of color in large numbers without convictions also came under the microscope. Those findings aren’t unique to Ferguson, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, a national leader in the fight against discriminatory pretrial practices.

Statement from Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of Pretrial Justice Institute:

“Discrimination in Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg. Nationwide, communities of color are bearing the brunt of a discriminatory pretrial detention system that leaves those who can’t afford costly bond amounts behind bars from periods lasting from days to years, before they get their day in court.

“Sadly, unnecessary pretrial detention disrupts the work, education and family life of the detained, causing irreparable harm. And, the overuse of jail threatens public safety. We now know that even short periods of pretrial detention increase an individual’s likelihood to commit crime after their case is resolved.

“We are glad to see the DOJ shedding light on this nationwide problem. The decision to arrest or detain should not be based on a person’s skin color or how much money they have.” (more…)



Today, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Varden v. City of Clanton, to assist the court in evaluating the constitutionality of fixed-money bail practices. In her complaint, Varden alleges that she was required to pay a cash “bond” in a fixed dollar amount for each misdemeanor charge she faced or else she would remain incarcerated.

Said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of Pretrial Justice Institute:

"Far too often, an individual’s inability to pay leads to their detention—violating their constitutional right to equal treatment under the law. Litigation, such as this case brought in Alabama, is important to curbing over-incarceration in America. (more…)



Safety and Justice Challenge includes national competition to support innovation in local criminal justice systems

SJC_OrangeIcon_RGBChicago, IL – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced an initial five-year, $75 million investment that seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Safety and Justice Challenge will support cities and counties across the country seeking to create fairer, more effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and lead to better social outcomes.  Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running them. (more…)